Cobra Gold Military Exercise Kicks Off in Thailand Without Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 22 February 2022

For the second year in a row Myanmar will not observe the Cobra Gold joint military exercise, which has kicked off in Thailand with military personnel from the US, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Australia taking part.

The exercise will last until March 5. About 2,000 Thai and 1,200 US troops will be involved in field and humanitarian assistance drills.

After Myanmar began opening up to the outside world in 2012 Myanmar was for a number of years invited by Thailand to observe the annual exercise. This proved controversial as Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, never implemented any reforms. The controversy was sharpened in 2018 after the Myanmar military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State the previous year shocked the world. Thailand’s decision to invite the Tatmadaw to observe Cobra Gold that year drew criticism, including in the US, whose government labeled the operation against the Rohingya ethnic cleansing.

Since staging a coup against Myanmar’s elected government in February 2021, the Tatmadaw has committed atrocities and human rights violations throughout the strife-torn country, prompting the West and some neighboring countries to condemn the regime. The US has imposed sanctions on military leaders, family members and business tycoons who have close relations with the military. The military ousted the elected civilian government and has detained government leaders and politicians.

Launched in 1982, Cobra Gold is the world’s longest-running multinational military exercise and is seen as a platform for the US to forge alliances in Asia at a time of increasing competition with China.

This year, the exercises will not feature the usual live-fire drills, amphibious landings and evacuation operations. Also absent, according to officials, will be the iconic cobra-blood drinking ritual that gives the wargames their name, according to The Bangkok Post.

Thai Defense Ministry Spokesman General Kongcheep Tantravanich said the exclusion of Myanmar, previously a Cobra Gold observer, for the second consecutive year was not related to the crisis in the country since last year’s Feb. 1 military coup.

Meanwhile, the isolated regime in Naypyitaw announced that it will send the Myanmar warship Sinphyushin to the Indian Ocean to take part in the India-led Multilateral Naval Exercise (MILAN-2022). The exercise will last from Feb. 25 to March 4.

A junta state-run paper claimed that a total of 24 warships from 16 countries—India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia, the US, Britain, South Korea, Japan, France and Seychelles—will join the activity and a related seminar.

The US, UK and France have condemned the coup in Myanmar.

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